Though grand conclusions should never be drawn from June NFL sessions, several Dolphins have made an impression through more than half of the offseason practices. Among them:
▪ Defensive end Robert Quinn. He overwhelmed Laremy Tunsil for a would-be sack on Wednesday and also blew up Kenyan Drake for a loss on a running play. That’s been typical of his offseason work.
“Special,” is the word teammate Vincent Taylor used to describe his skills.
Or, as defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Wednesday: “He’s a unique athlete. He bends probably as good as anybody I’ve ever been around. It’s weird to watch sometimes, to be honest with you. He comes off the corner and sometimes you think he’s actually rushing too high and gets past the quarterback, then he just turns his foot and plants it and bends it. His knee is about two feet off the ground and he can really hug it. It’s pretty fun.”
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▪ Running back Kalen Ballage. He has displayed good burst as a runner – easier to demonstrate this time of year without tackling – but also nifty hands as a receiver. (He had a drop Wednesday, but he has generally been reliable.)
The key will be whether he runs with physicality once pads come on; as ESPN’s Mel Kiper noted, he “played smaller at times” at Arizona State than a 6-3, 230-pound back should.
“When he walks through the door, you draw them up like that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s big, he’s good in protection, can catch the ball, can be a matchup issue in the passing game. You don’t want to be limited by smaller stature guys that you’ve got to take out on third down … Kenyan Drake is a guy that can play all three downs. I think Kalen fits that vision as well.
“He can catch the football. He can be a weapon out of the backfield; but he’s also big enough in pass pro. Where he needs to grow is the NFL game and nickel protections and learning that stuff, because that’s obviously the biggest transition in the NFL. He’s got to master that stuff. The more exposure that he gets, the better he’s going to get at it. I was really fired up when we drafted him.”
▪ Jakeem Grant. Cordrea Tankersley called him the Dolphins’ toughest receiver to cover downfield and the Dolphins’ decision to move him from the slot to boundary last offseason continues to pay dividends.
“When you first see him, you’re going to label him a slot, because everyone sees that,” Loggains said. “He is a long-striding, explosive athlete. Very much the case of a guy like in Atlanta, Chicago and we had in Cleveland – Taylor Gabriel. He’s a long-striding, explosive player. So, he has the ability to play on the outside and be good there. He can change the game in one snap."
Here's my Wednesday piece on Grant, with a bunch of other Dolphins notes.
▪ David Fales. Aside from a poorly-thrown interception that Taveze Calhoun returned for a touchdown Wednesday, Fales has been the best of the backup quarterbacks, showing good touch on intermediate and deep throws.
“He’s playing at the highest level I have ever seen him play,” Loggains said. “It’s a credit to him, because he’s done a lot of stuff in the summer, in the offseason with the strength training stuff. He’s worked really hard to get stronger and be a more accurate passer with more power.
“He did have the benefit of being here. The offense has been tweaked a little bit even since I was with Adam Gase in Chicago in 2015 and when Fales was with us then. So he does have the advantage of being here last year and understanding those things."
▪ Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. “He’s probably about as advertised,” Burke said. “He’s really sharp. He’s thirsty for knowledge and for more, and we’re trying to overload him a little bit. We keep giving him more and he keeps taking it. He spends a lot of extra time in the building on his own, working out and studying film."
So much so that Burke noticed Fitzpatrick spent 90 minutes with defensive backs coach Tony Oden on Tuesday night – until 9:30 p.m. – to get ahead on the playbook. That’s dedication.
“We are moving him around to some different spots and trying to play him in some different places to get a feel for sort of what his best fit is or what the best way to utilize him is, and he’s responded well,” Burke said. “He’s been around the ball. He’s got his hands on a few and been close on a couple of others. I’m excited to keep working with him, for sure.”
▪ Among undrafted rookies to make an impression, Utah State cornerback Jalen Davis was the first name that Burke mentioned. We’ve told you to keep an eye on him; Miami gave him the highest financial guarantee of its undrafted rookie free agents.
Burke also noted that undrafted Michigan rookie Mike McCray had an interception Wednesday and said former North Carolina linebacker Cayson Collins has “got some savvy about him.”
▪ A bunch of others have had some good moments, including DeVante Parker and Xavien Howard.
William Hayes and Andre Branch has been disruptive against second-team offensive linemen; Branch batted down a Brock Osweiler pass on Wednesday. T.J. McDonald forced an incompletion to Danny Amendola, setting up Reshad Jones for an interception.
It's easy for running backs to impress in unpadded practices, and Drake and Frank Gore have been solid.
▪ Among those we would like to see more from: tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, linebacker Jerome Baker, Osweiler and the boundary corners competing opposite Howard.